Rebecca Holman | Editor | Thursday, 28 April 2016

Instagram Stalking

Instagram Stalking: Welcome To The World Of No-Consent Dating

The Debrief: Because when you say no there's still your Instagram account to stalk

The other day, on Twitter, a girl I follow complained that she was 'currently being Instagram raped to within an inch of my life.' She was referring to someone who had liked 'every single one' of her Instagram photos, which she found weird and creepy. I instantly knew what she meant, because we've all been there – that half-stranger or friend-of-a-friend you don't know very well suddenly making their presence known on every one of your social media pages. They're not doing anything wrong exactly, but it just doesn't feel right.

Instagram stalking: welcome to the world of no-consent dating 

When Jennifer found out that a friend of a friend wanted to go out with her after he saw a picture of her on Instagram, she was somewhere between freaked out and flattered. Happily shacked up with her boyfriend, she gently turned him down. At which point, things started to get weird. ‘Suddenly he started following me on every social media platform going. He didn't say anything at first, but in a way his silence was even eerier, like he was quietly watching me from afar, when I’d never met him.'

Whether she wants to see him again or not, Jennifer’s admirer can now follow the intricacies of her life through Instagram, Twitter, Vine, or her blog. They may never have met, but he still knows where she went for dinner last night, what film she’s planning to watch tomorrow night, and how many miles she ran this morning. All the things your Significant Other normally knows about you. She could block him but ‘that seems a little aggressive and rude on my part – essentially he’s done nothing wrong, and he is a friend of a friend.’ That said Jennifer's silence might start backfiring on her. 'The other day he invited himself to an event I'm hosting, which I'd promoted on Twitter. I'm still playing dead at the moment, but I am going to have to say something soon – it's just too much.'

Seen from Jennifer’s point of view, the persistent monitoring of a lost love on social media can seen uber-creepy – but we’ve all done it, haven’t we? Nope? Just me? Moving on…

My friend, for example, has an almighty, all-consuming, unrequited crush. It’s not unrequited in a romcom, they-might-get-together-in-the-end way – he just really doesn’t fancy her. Last time she saw him, she decided to lean in for a kiss, and he leapt out of the way because he ‘wouldn’t want to ruin their “special friendship.”’ They’d met twice.

my friend rarely lets a simple thing like rejection stop her cultivating a crush – not when she has Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at her fingertips

No worries though, because my friend (and I really do mean friend, not ‘friend-who’s-actually-me’, got it?) rarely lets a simple thing like rejection stop her cultivating a crush – not when she has Twitter, Instagram, and (for those with particularly lax security settings) Facebook at her fingertips.

Instagram Stalking: Tips From A Pro 

With a bit of light research-stalking, she can learn more about her current crush in one evening than she would have in four ye-olde-days dates, pre-social media. To all intents and purposes, she’s dating him, he just doesn’t know it.

‘If I meet someone and like them I usually give them a damn good stalk – although everyone does that, don’t they? But as soon as I know they’re not interested I have a habit of taking it to a whole new creepy level – mainly because I start taking the bits of their life I’ve learnt about on Instagram and Facebook and incorporating them into the fantasy I’ve built up around our life together.’

OK, I love my friend dearly, but she does sounds pretty mental. Although she just thinks it’s her brain’s way of letting the crush fizzle out of its own accord. ‘Once it’s obvious it’s not going to happen in real life, I should probably leave it, but I can’t really stop myself. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, I just find it/them fascinating. I also prefer to have to dig for it – it’s much more satisfying that way.

‘The problem arises when I meet them and accidentally drop something into the conversation about the party they had the week before (the one they didn't actually invite me to) or refer to their sister (who I've never met) by name. I suppose, from their point of view, that is quite creepy, isn't it?’

Essentially, we’re living in an age when no no longer means no.

The amount of information you can get online about a potential paramour is terrifying, we all know that, but who says it has to stop because that person doesn’t actually want to go out with you? Essentially, we’re living in an age when no no longer means no.

And before we accuse all women with an Instagram account and a working knowledge of LinkedIn of being bunny boilers, men do it too, all the bloody time. Yesterday, a man I went on two dates with six years ago sent me a picture of his cock, so I had ‘something to dream about’ because I happened to mention on Twitter that I hadn’t been sleeping well. WHO DOES THAT?

It’s not just the cock picture weirdos. A(nother) friend of mine (I have at least two), is a tabloid hack and notorious lady botherer. And when he has his eye on someone, he uses these two skillz to devastating effect. 

Instagram stalking guide 

‘I cyber-stalk people for work all the time, but I also use it to get the lowdown on girls I fancy. You can pretty much find out anything about someone on the Internet. Obviously social network sites are a goldmine of personal info – you can find out about likes, hobbies, work, friends, food tastes, music, film and TV preferences. You can also get a rough idea whether they put it about a bit or are potential bunny boilers and most importantly whether they look hot in a bikini.

‘With a bit more spade work, you can find out about their work history, (LinkedIn etc), their school/uni history or whether they have been on dating sites in the past. I can also scan newspaper sites to see if they have ever been mentioned in regards to raising money for the RSPCA or assaulting their ex. You can see if they've posted embarrassing vids on YouTube, or dodgy pics on Instagram.’

Christ, my friend is a twat. Although he does baulk at continuing the full-on stalkathon once someone’s made it clear they’re not interested. Not that regularly checking out someone’s Facebook and Instagram photos constitutes stalking to him. ‘If a girl’s fit and I fancy her, of course I’ll keep an eye on her, erm, progress online – why wouldn’t I?’ Charming.

That said, no-consent dating cuts both ways. If you can stalk people online, they can do the same to you – as my friend has discovered. ‘I'm pretty sure I've had girls back out of dates after having a sniff around my FB page. One girl who was doing a PhD politely said she had changed her mind because she wanted to “devote herself to science”. Whatever that means. So hopefully my hideous FB pics have inadvertently helped mankind in some way.’

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Picture: Getty

Tags: Dating Confusion, Instagram